Although the mandatory requirements may appear daunting at first, all can be accomplished on either a very long day-trip or in two easy day-trips. The First World War sites are in the West and North of Belgium, while the Second World War sites are in the East and South of Belgium. Therefore, geography makes it difficult to combine a visit to sites from both wars on the same day.
To solve this geographical problem, it is best to concentrate on one of the two wars for a full-day experience. Or, you can do smaller trips: one to the First World War sites and one to the Second World War sites. We recommend the latter, but there is nothing wrong with the former.
First World War Tour
For the sites related to the First World War, one can leave Brussels early in the morning and visit the Flanders Field American Cemetery in Waregem. From there, travel to Ieper to visit one of the museums, the German cemetery at Langemarck, the Kemmel American monument, the Menen Gate, and any one of the multiple British cemeteries in the area, such as the Essex Farm British Cemetery (the site where John McCrae wrote the poem In Flanders Fields) and the Tyne Cot cemetery, which is the largest of the British cemeteries. On the way back to Brussels, you can stop at Oudenaarde to see the American monument there, and/or visit the Ohio Bridge. Maps and ideas for visiting the battlefields can be obtained from the Tourist Information Office in the center of Ieper.
Second World War Tours
If you decide to focus on the Second World War, there are two choices:
- The Northern Flank of the Battle of the Bulge
- The Southern Flank of the Battle of the Bulge
The Northern Flank of the Battle of the Bulge
Leave Brussels early in the morning and travel to the Henri-Chapelle American Cemetery. From the cemetery, there are two options:
- First, one can visit the nearby Remember Museum, and the US First Infantry Division monument. Following the Remember Museum, one can visit the monuments at Baugnez, Krinkelt, Meyerode, Wereth or any of the others.
- The second option is to travel to Losheim, and then follow the path of Peiper’s SS Panzer Division. Along the way, there are numerous monuments to the Americans who stopped the Nazis' advance, and the road includes the site of the massacre at Baugnez. In this option, there are several options for museums, especially the Baugnez 44 Museum and the December 44 Museum at La Gleize.
In both cases, the closest German cemetery is in Lommel. On your way back to Brussels, there is a British cemetery just off the E-40 in Heverlee near Leuven.
The Southern Flank of the Battle of the Bulge Tour
Leave Brussels early in the morning to visit the Ardennes American Cemetery. From there, go to Bastogne, visit any one of the museums there and see the numerous monuments around Bastogne. You can also visit the German military cemetery in Recogne. The Bastogne tourist information office has maps and guidebooks for a driving tour around Bastogne that follows the battle. On the way home, visit the British cemetery in Hotton.
Again, we highly recommend that you visit sites from both World Wars. We recommend that you choose one day to visit the area around Ieper, and another to visit either flank of the Battle of the Bulge. If you are ambitious, it’s worth spending a night in the Ardennes and visiting both flanks of the Battle of the Bulge. Whatever you choose, the scale of the bloodshed that was suffered in Belgium during both wars will leave a lasting impression.